Real Madrid beats Barcelona 2-1 to go top of Spanish league

MADRID — Real Madrid continued its impressive run on Saturday, going top of the Spanish league with a 2-1 win over Barcelona in what may have been Lionel Messi’s last league clásico.

The victory in pouring rain in the Spanish capital left Madrid tied on points with Atlético Madrid, which on Sunday can return to the top when it visits sixth-place Real Betis. Madrid is ahead of its city rival on the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Barcelona, which had been unbeaten in 19 straight league games, stayed one point off the lead.

Karim Benzema and Toni Kroos scored first-half goals to give Madrid its sixth straight win in all competitions. The defending league champions were coming off a win over Liverpool in the first leg of the quarterfinals of the Champions League on Tuesday.

Barcelona got on the board in the second half with a goal by Óscar Mingueza. It nearly equalized with a shot from young substitute Ilaix Moriba that struck the crossbar in the final play of the match.

This was the first time Madrid has taken the league lead since the early rounds of the competition, and it trailed Atlético by 11 points at one stage.

The result ended Barcelona’s six-match winning streak in the league. It had won nine away matches in a row in the competition.

The 33-year-old Messi, who reached seven straight clásicos without a goal, has his contract with Barcelona ending this season. The Argentina star expressed desire to leave the Catalan club last year but had his request denied.

It was an even start at the Alfredo Di Stéfano Stadium in Madrid’s training center, but the hosts opened the scoring in the 13th minute with Benzema’s superb flicked shot from close range after a low cross by Lucas Vázquez.

The French striker, who has scored 10 goals in his last nine matches, got in front of Barcelona defender Ronald Araújo and flicked the ball toward the net with his back foot. He hadn’t scored against Barcelona in nine consecutive clásicos.

The Catalan club complained of a foul by Vázquez on Messi just moments before the opening goal.

Kroos added to the lead in the 28th from a free kick following a foul on Vinícius Júnior, who was coming off an outstanding performance in Madrid’s win over Liverpool. Kroos shot from just outside the area and the ball deflected on American defender Sergiño Dest before going into the net.

Madrid almost added to the lead in the 34th when Federico Valverde hit the post after a breakaway led by Vinícius Júnior, who also hit the post in the second half. That was after Barcelona pulled one back in the 60th with a shot from inside the area by Mingueza after a low cross by Jordi Alba.

Madrid played the final minutes a man down after Casemiro was sent off with a second yellow card.

Messi has scored a record 26 times in the clásico, since he netted his first hat trick for Barcelona at age 19 in a 3-3 draw with Madrid in 2007. One of his best chances on Sunday was with a corner kick that curled across the area and hit Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois’ far post in first-half stoppage time. Messi’s free kick in second-half stoppage time was easily stopped by Courtois.

Madrid got the win despite a depleted defense — with the absences of central defenders Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos. Barcelona was without the injured Gerard Piqué.

Barcelona’s next match is the Copa del Rey final against Athletic Bilbao on Saturday, while Madrid travels to England to play Liverpool again in the Champions League on Wednesday.


Juan Cala, who last weekend was accused of racially insulting Valencia defender Mouctar Diakhaby, played from the start in Cádiz’s 1-0 win at Getafe.

Cala denied any wrongdoing and the Spanish league said Friday it had not found evidence to support Diakhaby’s accusation against the Cádiz player.

It was the third win in five matches for Cádiz, which moved to 12th place. Getafe, winless in five matches, stayed 15th.


Athletic Bilbao was held 0-0 at home by second-to-last Alavés to extend its winless streak to five matches in all competitions ahead of its cup final against Barcelona.

The winless run of last-place Eibar reached 14 matches after a 1-0 home loss to eighth-place Levante. ___

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